Fender plans to announce it will stop using swamp ash in its famous line of Stratocasters and Telecasters—reserving the wood for vintage models only. Fender blamed the dwindling supply on longer periods of climate-fueled flooding along the lower Mississippi—which is endangering saplings and making it harder for lumber companies to reach standing trees—as well as the invasive tree-boring beetle.
Tonewood believers are in a tizzy over the change in sound that moving to maple or alder will have on guitars. I’m seeing headlines that nearly scream “It’s the End of the World!” for our beloved guitars, now that they’ll never sound like the originals.
You’ve likely read similar crud (PG 13 rating!) about vintage, cheap paper-type capacitors having that “magic sound”, etc., etc. (Like electrons give a shucks about how much you spend on a cap!) There are many, many things that affect the sound of a guitar. If you play acoustic guitar, then wood is certainly a big factor.
But even if you play semi-hollow electrics, if wood type is a factor at all, it’s like the pea in “The Princess and the Pea” story. You are quite unlikely to notice any affect from the wood because so many other factors have much more impact on your sound.
Leo Fender used swamp ash because it was plentiful, cheap and easy to work with. While it’s sad that we are not taking care of our environment and we’re losing this and many other species of plants, there are many other wood types that meet Leo’s criteria and life will go on.
It’s my belief that only “princesses” will really hear a difference.